Rare flashes of wit and energy, mostly drowned out by a sea of self-indulgent ramblings.

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I LOVE YOU MORE THAN YOU KNOW

Humorist Ames (Wake Up, Sir!, 2004, etc.) presents previously published essays detailing the various ways in which he's stumbled, failed, disappointed himself and others and, occasionally, triumphed.

Ames seems to forever be searching for new ways to reveal his foibles to the reading public; for this author, there is no topic too intimate, sexual or scatological to share. But his latest collection lacks verve, drive and focus. Mostly, it feels lazy, or in need of a strong editor. Here, Ames rambles through personal anecdotes, discussing, among other things, a depressing interaction with a French prostitute, his irritable bowel syndrome, the details of a sex show in Amsterdam and a funny but still melancholy encounter with a suburban dominatrix, made more poignant by the fact that Ames had told his mother and child that he'd be at the library, working (the essay is made correspondingly less poignant by the maudlin way Ames beats his breast over his iniquities). Picking cysts, scratching his crotch, pondering the cause of his perplexingly itchy posterior, Ames invites readers along for all of it. He also frequently discusses his penis, in essays such as “Oh, Pardon my Hard-On,” “My Wiener Is Damaged!” and “How I Almost Committed Suicide Because of a Wart.” There are a couple of strong pieces—the titular essay is a warm reminiscence of visiting a beloved elderly aunt, and “Called Myself El Cid” is a lively account of Ames's days on the Princeton fencing team. In general, however, the author discusses his various shortcomings in a tone exuding regret, longing, gnawing professional envy and a self-absorption that allows him to publish work that is both exhibitionist and deeply self-critical.

Rare flashes of wit and energy, mostly drowned out by a sea of self-indulgent ramblings.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-8021-7017-X

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Black Cat/Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2005

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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